Let's not overlook something here:
Braga pressed us quite high most of the match. At times they had 5-6 players in our half trying to shut off the supply to the midfield. Our midfield (well our whole side) lacks dynamism and passing range. Especially without Gerrard, Agger, Suarez, Aurelio etc. So as a defender, it's quite easy to feel like you're just putting yourself under pressure by playing it short and relying on pass and move in tight spaces to get out of your own half. You add to that the fact that you have two big men up front, and the natural tendency is to go long. You really can't blame Carra for this. He's part of a back 4 of which only one player is comfortable with the ball at his feet. In front of him he's got a player in Lucas who's likely to get pressured and pass it back to a defender. Meanwhile we're down a goal on aggregate and we've got a colossus up front twiddling his thumbs.
Braga got their tactics spot on. The only chance we had of getting the ball in good positions was a long ball forward. After that we had to win the 2nd ball and rely on guile and creativity around their 18 yard box. We didn't have any.
You want pass and move football, you need pass and move players. Not just a few, but all of them. Especially the defenders. But pass and move football alone won't win you games (as Arsenal have found out). You still need creativity in the final 3rd and you need to be able to finish.
For me, the fact that we hoofed so much didn't matter. It's only natural under the circumstances. We did end up getting the ball in the right positions more than enough times. It's at that point we failed. Which tells you that if you don't have offensive game changers in your team, players like Suarez who make things happen when on the ball - and you rely on workhorses and have-beens up front - you'll find it hard to come by goals. Is anyone really surprised?
Absolutely this. Don't know if anyone had Alan Green on last night, some guy was on talking absolute 100% senes on the phone in. Realised afterwards, it was Jimmy Case.
It was "easy" in some ways for Braga, they defended very high up the pitch, and as you say, that allowed their defence and midfield to press ours back. Why could they do this? It was simpe, we had zero pace up top. Maxi, Cole, Kuyt, and Carroll are no slouches, no, but they aren't electric pace exactly. Had Suarez been eligible, then they wouldn't have been able to do that (or at least, they woud have been stupid to think they could). But with the personal available, they had a way to stop us.
This meant our only option was the long ball. I knew after the game, people on here would be kicking off, but it was very much a needs must. We had no other option.
While, over the years, we have never really had pacey wingers, we had Torres. And his electric pace, meant teams couldn't defend high up the pitch. He would destroy them. So we pressed high, pushing their defenders back, and putting them under pressure. This is how we used to win games. Add to that we had the creativity of Benayoun, Gerrard who was lethal outside the box, Alonso who could split a defence, and Kuyt who worked his bollox off, and popped up with vital goals. It wasn't at times, "pretty" football, but it was about putting defences under huge pressure, until they cracked. And it worked at times, but sometimes we never found that vital goal (hence all the draws in 08/09).
We now have a new team now though, a new era. Based on simple pass and move football. We have a combination up top of big and strong, with quick and creative. Defences wont be able to defend high up the pitch, but when forced back, Carroll and Suarez will give them big problems. We will also need some pace in the wide areas, which I no doubt will come in the summer. Getting in behind the defence that sits deep, and opening them up.
Just because Carroll is in the team, doesn't mean we will launch it. Anyone who thinks that, just doesn't seem to understand. How else could we have played last night, with the players available? Our options from the bench were very limited, we brought on a Striker and central midfielder for our "wide" players for gods sake. It was what available last night. Cole and Maxi were both relatively poor, working hard yes, but zero in the creative department. Not out pacing defenders, and getting to the byline to get the cross in. Johnson provided us with some of this from the right, which wasn't too bad at times, and Wilson clearly isn't a left back (yet). So it was just a needs must.
Suarez will add so much to this team on the weekend, and the remainder of the season. We will still lack in the key wide areas, but that will be addressed in the summer. I am sure, depending how unrealistic 5th place is come the end of the season, we will see younger lads get a chance too. See what they have in their locker.
Lets all be positive I say. It was a tough night last night, really tough. And so dissapointing. But the way we have played, we did well to get as far as we did. And to be in 6th spot now, from the relegation zone earlier in the season, is a massive climb. We beat United just 2 weeks ago. We have beat Chelsea in recent weeks too. And those matches were no flukes. We have the best crop of young players in many a year (not one or two, 8 or 9 who "could make it). We need some quality added, that is clear, but at least now we have owners who are willing to put the money in.
As hard as it is, lets try and enjoy the last few weeks of the season hey.